I came home to my partner and his kids after yoga. A dreary silence hovered in the house, loaded with tension. He had had a rough time with the girls bickering since he picked them up from school. His two daughters couldn’t be more different in personalities. The six-year-old (who calls herself H2) is outgoing, energetic, belle of the ball, and brutally honest. What you see with her is what you get. Her nine-year old sister (H1) is an introvert who hides her emotions and doesn’t like confrontation.
While the dinner was cooking, I laid the placemats and turned my attention to making the salad when he asked them to help. I wish he hadn’t. H2, who had already set up the silverware, started filling cups of water. H1 decided getting water was her contribution. They commenced pushing and shoving each other, buttock to buttock, at the fridge door, cups of water in hand. Dad quietly fumed.
During my plating the food a new fight ensued, this time over a knife. One of the girls wanted to switch her knife with the other. The other refused. Their vocal brawl escalated decibel by decibel. As the bonus mom I typically try not to get too involved with disciplining, but this was not a volume one could ignore. Seeing how dad had turned red by now, inspired by Captain Von Trapp from The Sound of Music, I brought my fingers to my lips to blow a whistle. For the most part, I can get out a mean whistle in parties. Somehow in that moment only air escaped through my lips. Then it happened. My normally gentle partner, by now beet red, exploded.
“H1 and H2!” He shouted.
The girls looked up frozen, silverware still in hand. “I. have. had it with you two. Go up to your rooms and don’t come down until you have calmed yourselves.”
They dropped the silverware and disappeared. It didn’t take long for guilt to overcome him. As soon as we finished our meals he let them know it was ok to come down for dinner.
Minutes later, we heard footsteps coming down the stairs. It was the older child. In protest, she showed up blindfolded. Fortunately, she had chosen a see through scarf (she negotiated the stairs much too easily for someone who couldn’t see.) She walked straight to the table and sat down. Anytime I spoke to her father, she’d turn her head towards me and bend it back for a glimpse from under the scarf. When dad spoke, she ignored him.
H1 tasted the salmon, pushed it away on her plate, served herself salad, finished the salad, took her plate to the sink, and marched up the stairs, all in her blindfold. Ordinarily, I feel self doubt when they don’t eat the food I make, but this was too amusing to leave room for any other emotion.
I suppose she had had it with dad too. Even introverts have a breaking point. I’m sure in her mind there was no need to raise voices. A gentle reminder would do. What she failed to realize was that gentle reminders had been coming her way the whole afternoon and she had ignored them.
I braced myself for her little sister, whose made-up fairy tales involve a little girl (usually her) fighting some authority figure (usually teachers). But she was too hungry to protest. She finished her plate of quinoa to which she added blinds (her name for chickpeas) and salad.
One can hope our postprandial explanations and clarifications taught them a lesson. Hopefully they saw the role they played in this.
Either way, peace was restored in the household once again even if for a precious few minutes.